First there was advent calendars with tiny pictures. Just the wonder of seeing a tiny angel or a deer in the woods, the joy of beauty, would make us jump out of bed in the mornings. Then there was some lucky children, that told us of calendars with chocolate every morning, they lied of course.
Then, while I was busy growing up, studying, working, having children, Christmas shifted into another gear without me really noticing. When it was time for my children to have advent calendars, chocolate was a thing of the past. There should be gifts, small gifts, but still things, that had to be bought, packed and numbered. It was fun to look for tiny treasures through the year, but also quite without meaning. So why not give them things they really needed? By then we had three children. The calendar gifts were tied to the garland on the banister and the whole staircase from the living room up to the second floor was jammed with 72 gifts. Not silly stuff, toys, garments, books, puzzles.
It was too much. And not for me. The gifts were disturbing the morning peace and made our advent into 24 Christmas mornings. I had never considered that receiving gifts can be stressful, but our children thought so, and my husband thought so. You are not always in the mood to be happy and grateful, sometimes you just want a peaceful breakfast. Kind children will try to, they will smile and say thank you, they will recognize the effort that went into the gift giving, but they will get tired of it.
Then one morning two were crying for not having got the color they wanted on their christmas tights and one was crying for not finding his gift. I sat down on the stairs to comfort them, when my husband said, is this really how you want advent mornings to be?
It was not. The next november we talked about what we were looking forward to in advent. Then I wrote 24 cards, each with one thing to do. Not what had to be done, but what we wanted to be done. Many where special books to be read at bed time or Christmas movies to be seen. Some where clearing our closets and giving to Goodwill. There were cards for making cookies and for polishing silver. When they were still small, I would adjust the card for the next day according to circumstances. If I was ill, there would be reading cards, if a surprise play or concert came up, I would add that.
Then there would still be gifts of surprise and fun, but only in the wooden shoes on Sinter Claas and in the stockings on the morning of Christmas eve.
As the years came by, I realized that the “to-do” calendar had not only saved the peace of several winter mornings. It had also taught us all that advent should not be a frenzy of activities. To do one thing each day that makes Christmas is enough. It has also taught my children the how and when of the things they cherish for Christmas. Some they will leave behind and some they will take with them. It is all for them to decide.
Believe me, I know better than most how frantic and exhausting it is possible to make the season of peace and goodwill. The main story on Indexyourlife in December will be my way to a Christmas free of tangles.
In December my brother and I write an advent calendar blog together in norwegian.You may visit at JULEFRYD or Christmas Joy. This year we will be writing or sharing thoughts and joys of gifts, giving and sharing. We will post there every day, and I will share some of that blog here on indexyourlife too.
All pictures at Indexyourlife are mine, if not otherwise stated.